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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, May 14, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

I wish I had an answer to that because I'm tired of answering that question. - Yogi Berra

Plato's Crito

Upcoming racing, according to UCI revised calendar:

Latest completed racing:

Interview with sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo

Nizzolo's NTT Team posted this:

Sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo has had a superb start to 2020 for NTT Pro Cycling, claiming big stage wins at the Santos Tour Down Under and at Paris-Nice. We sat down with the Italian star to reflect on his excellent form and what his eyes are set on once the season resumes.

Giacomo Nizzolo

Giacomo Nizzolo wins 2020 Tour Down Under Stage five. Sirotti photo

How would you describe your start to 2020?

It was a great start for me. Results-wide it was good, of course, and the best feeling that I had was that of simply being competitive again. That feeling when you know that in the final (parts of a race) you can be one of the guys that can win – often. You feel strong and you feel you can do it, and not that everything has to fall (fortuitously) in place for a victory, but rather that you are always able to contest even if you aren’t necessarily in the best situation.

You have spoken about the fact that for the first time in many seasons you had a solid pre-season – injury free – and it seems like a flick has switched with you. Is that the case?

It totally makes sense. Having a good winter for me meant a lot, mentally as well. When you have the confidence, knowing that you have done everything you could possibly do to be in the absolute best shape, that’s what you need to perform. Of course I could see physically that not losing any weeks of training gave me the shape that I wanted but as we said, there was a confirmation mentally that I was there and having a good winter was such an important point as to why I was performing well at the start of the year

2020 – new look, new teammates, and some new faces among the staff; your victory in Australia came the day after a bad day for the team. There was a lot of work done that night and the following morning, how did the team turn that around so quickly?

It was a difficult day, one that we didn’t manage well tactically, and I was even more disappointed because I had the feeling that we had the legs to do it. That’s why we spent a lot of time ‘turning the page’, to be better, because I definitely had the feeling that we could do it as power-wise we were there. We had a long debrief (after the stage), a long meeting in the morning and everybody was committed at that point, and we could clearly see that on the stage. Of course it wasn’t for “free” – the victory – it wasn’t something that we were sure of but the fact that the victory came gave us such a sense of satisfaction and an explanation of how important it was to have a clear plan, and be fully committed to that.

It was an important early marker for the new team to lay down but after that you came to Europe taking 2nd at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, perhaps a race that a lot of people wouldn’t think would really suit you?

I had this great victory Down Under but mentally it wasn’t a huge focus for me (to win there). I had a good winter but for me the real goals were in Europe. At the training camps I said: “when we go to Australia and I have the chance to go for a win then I will go for it but it’s not the main goal.” The fact that the win came there gave me great confidence and after coming back to Europe I took a small rest and then our plan was to go to Oman but that was then cancelled. As option B, I went to Provence, which was quite hard but I think that helped me go up a level in terms of my condition.

Kuurne was one of my goals, I had it in my mind to be good there and you never know how the race can pan out because it is a Classic. You know how those races are, anything can happen from the start to the finish. In the end we got a good result, second place, there was a great winner but of course winning the bunch sprint is not always the best feeling.

After that I realised that power and performance-wise that they were good days; with that performance I was looking even more towards my upcoming races which at that time were Tirreno-Adriatica & Milan-San Remo.

What did your stage victory at Paris-Nice mean to you?

I’m not sure but at the time I think Milan-San Remo was still on, so for me Paris-Nice was the final step towards that event. Of course in that period the shape was great, I had the confidence that I had the team around me but to get a win at Paris-Nice was also one of the goals. To get it after such a crazy day was something special and that gave me the extra boost to reach the end of the race. If I look back overall, it was a great week.

Considering how well you started the year, how frustrating has it been to have had the season halted? Of course none of us could have predicted the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is something that I’ve asked myself many times! I’ve been injured for a long time and so finally after three years I had a good winter, no issues, and I could prepare myself at the very best way possible and once I got there again, the rest of the world stops.

I have to say for the first few days I was pretty disappointed as I could see that I was at a good level and I was asking myself how is this possible? Then once I’m at the level that I want to be, everything is shut down again. But I have to be honest it was just for a few days and then I realised the bigger picture, what was going on and that was so much more serious than just a bike race.

Milan-San Remo: what would it mean to you to win it?

It would mean a lot. I think it’s the best race for a rider with my set of characteristics and it’s a race that starts in the city that I was born – which already gives me a special feeling. This year will probably be sunny but most of the time you start in a grey Milan and then finish in the seaside sunshine of Liguria, which is San Remo; so after 300km it’s unique. It’s such an iconic race, to win it would be super-special especially, sorry to say it again, but for an Italian rider.

Confident that you could challenge for the victory?

I’m confident that I could play (be in the reckoning) for victory. My relationship with the race itself is really bad as I’ve never been at the start line in the condition that I wanted. Most of the time I was injured either a few days before or few weeks before, or I was sick or something. For example in 2013 it was snowing: they started the race, then they stopped it and then they restarted it again – and my current team won! – but at that time I was just freezing on the bus.

The year after that I broke my collarbone a few weeks beforehand and the year after I broke my foot. And then in 2016, which was my best year prior to 2019, I was sick in Tirreno just beforehand. So let’s hope that one time everything comes together for me – we cross fingers, we don’t say it – but everybody knows what I mean.

Do you still have a gap on your tattoo(s) that you haven’t filled in yet?

Yes, I have place every/anywhere for this race. (Don’t worry) We will find a spot.

Finally, what’s your mental approach going to be back on the start line for the first race when the season resumes?

My approach will be to be super-focused, super-aggressive and to try and take everything that is possible out on the road. I think it will be the mentality of many of us. Nobody has lived through this experience before so it will be something new for everyone, and I think those that are mentally stronger will get a lot out of this situation. Approach and attitude (for me) will always be about fighting to the line, and then we will see.

Team INEOS nutritionist explains how nutrition can benefit the immune system

Team INEOS posted this inteview:

The most common illness in athletes is upper respiratory tract infections, which is an umbrella term for bacterial and viral infections (such as COVID-19).

A vigilant approach to hygiene is key, but whether you’re preparing to ride a Grand Tour, commuting to work or simply staying as fit and healthy as possible, there are also ways our nutrition can help benefit our immune system.

We spoke with Team INEOS’ Lead Performance Nutritionist, Javier Gonzalez, to find out more.

Hi Javier. Even before we eat, as a first step it’s crucial to make sure we’re doing everything we can to minimise the risk of infection.

As a team we’ve had processes in place for a long time around hygiene. It’s always been central to how we work and making sure everyone is compliant with these processes is really important, especially as we move into this next phase of training outside. For the general public the same principles apply. Making sure you wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water or alcohol hand gel, making sure you’ve got clean cutlery and you’re not sharing drinks bottles or glasses. These kind of things will reduce your risk of getting any kind of infection, including COVID-19.

We work closely with our chefs, and also consider the environment where the food is served. Going forward, where and how we eat is something we’re thinking about a lot as we prepare to return to racing. It’s just about trying to limit exposure.

Obviously everything is heightened at the moment due to the spread of coronavirus. It’s worth just setting out that this information isn’t specifically applicable to COVID-19.

From a nutritional perspective, there’s currently no direct evidence that any nutrition affects COVID-19 specifically. Nethertheless, in some areas it’s reasonable to assume, based on what we know about physiology, that the right diet could provide some benefit, and it’s unlikely to cause any harm.

It’s not a surprise that fruit and vegetables are going to be key. But can you explain how they help our immune system?

We know that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is important for general health and the immune system. As a bit of a guide we say, try to “eat the rainbow”, as that variety in colour is a marker of healthful plant nutrient intake. These are compounds in foods which support health.

The two broad areas of fruit and vegetables that we think are helpful are their vitamin content, which we’ve known for a very long time. If you’re deficient in certain vitamins then aspects of your health are impaired, including your immune system. More recently we’ve been aware of the other compounds or chemicals within fruit and vegetables that have health benefits. Phytonutrients, including polyphenols, are the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their colour. For example, beta-carotene is a nutrient that gives carrots their orange colour.

Can you explain how probiotics and prebiotics work?

We can supplement our diet with “good bacteria” known as probiotics, or by consuming food which “feed” these bacteria, known as prebiotics. What we’re doing when we take a probiotic is taking a specific strain of bacteria and trying to introduce that into our gut. Prebiotics are food for that good bacteria. Both of them are ultimately trying to achieve the goal of getting more good bacteria in your gut. That’s beneficial for our immune function in a number of ways. One of them is simply the idea of substitution. If you’ve got more “good" bacteria in your gut, they essentially take the place of the “bad" bacteria. In that way they reduce your risk of infection as you’ve got fewer bad bacteria in your gut that can produce an infection. The other way is through an interaction with our immune system. So when we’ve got more good bacteria in our gut, our whole immune system is enhanced as well.

You can get prebiotics from onions, garlic and those type of vegetables. You can also get some probiotics from fermented foods. Things like live yoghurt, and kefir (fermented probiotic milk drink) is also a popular one. They have some of the strains of bacteria in there that are beneficial.

We’ve already talked about the importance of protein in terms of maintaining muscle mass. Does it also play a role for our immune system?

Yes, protein is thought to support the immune system – especially in athletes who are training hard. Essentially a diet higher in protein supports the immune system, especially during training. It’s thought to be partly because the amino acids, those building blocks of protein, are a key fuel that is used by our immune cells. If we don’t have enough of those available it can compromise our immune function.

What about supplements?

Some nutritional supplements have been shown to reduce the duration and/or severity of upper respiratory tract infections. In the team we benefit greatly from working with Science in Sport as they have a comprehensive range of supplements. It’s important to consume these correctly in terms of the recommended daily amount. For an adult, these include Vitamin C (1000 mg as 2 x 500mg per day), Zinc lozenges (30 mg/day dissolve the lozenge in the mouth), and Omega-3 fish oils (1000 mg/d).

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